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Only You Can Save Mankind (The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Terry Pratchett
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The alien spaceship is in his sights. His finger is on the Fire button. Johnny Maxwell is about to set the new high score on the computer game Only You Can Save Mankind.

We wish to talk.

We surrender.

The aliens aren't supposed to surrender -- they're supposed to die! Now what is Johnny going to do with a fleet of alien prisoners who know their rights under the international rules of war and are demanding safe-conduct? It's hard enough trying to save Mankind from the Galactic Hordes. It's even harder trying to save the Galactic Hordes from Mankind.

But it's just a game, isn't it? Isn't it?

Master storyteller Terry Pratchett leaves readers breathless -- with laughter, and with suspense -- in a reality-bending tale of virtual heroism.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8–Johnny Maxwell, 12, thinks he's a loser. People don't seem to notice him, his parents are threatening to split up, and he's not very good at the shoot-up-the-bad-guys computer games that he and his friends are always playing. But after his hacker buddy, Wobbler, gives him an illegal copy of Only You Can Save Mankind, strange things happen. The captain of the alien fleet that Johnny is supposed to shoot up surrenders to him–unheard of in a computer game–and soon after that all of the aliens from all copies of the game have vanished. Players looking for someone to shoot at sail through light years of empty space and return the game to the store, demanding their money back. Johnny also discovers that he is able to enter the alien ship in dreams and grows convinced that the aliens are somehow real, and are actually dying when human players shoot at them. And soon the day arrives when the humans can resume their shooting. The story is told against the backdrop of the 1991 Gulf War, in which many of the battles were fought with the help of PC screens, and the antiwar message of the story soon becomes a little too heavy-handed and obvious. Although the storytelling here is not as polished as it is in Pratchett's The Wee Free Men (HarperCollins, 2003), the humor is sharp and the story is great fun to read. This is the first in a trilogy published in England; U.S. editions of Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb will soon follow.–Walter Minkel, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. Johnny Maxwell's life is full of conflict. His parents are going through trying times, and the 1991 Gulf War is raging on his television every night, looking more like his computer war games than a news broadcast. A new game, provided by his hacker friend, Wobbler, is not what he expects. Only You Can Save Mankind is supposed to be an adventure-packed game of killing aliens, but on the first play, the game's newtlike female ScreeWee captain surrenders to Johnny, asking for safe conduct for aliens across the game borders. Now other gamers find only empty spaces when they fire up the game; there's nothing to kill. Johnny's heroic endeavors to save the aliens is a wild ride, full of Pratchett's trademark humor; digs at primitive, low-resolution games such as Space Invaders; and some not-so-subtle philosophy about war and peace. Readers will recognize some of the gamer types--among them, Johnny's sidekick Wobbler, who never plays computer games, preferring instead to crack the codes. There's also Johnny's feisty girl pal, Kirsty (whose dialogue is printed in italics and whose game name is Sigourney). One hopes that when Johnny returns for subsequent adventures, they will be along for the ride. Cindy Dobrez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 156 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0552139262
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000R4LGIO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,796 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's just a game--isn't it? March 20, 2003
Only You Can Save Mankind is the first book in Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell trilogy. While this is considered juvenile or young adult fiction, it's a lot of fun for adults as well. It seems a little strange to journey with Terry Pratchett to a place other than the Discworld, but this little jaunt is quite enjoyable. Johnny Maxwell is a rather typical twelve year old boy; he's not smart or popular or rich, and he tends to prefer operating below the radar of those around him. He is living in Trying Times, basically having to take care of himself for the most part while his parents argue and come ever closer to splitting up. Like any kid, he enjoys a good computer game every now and then, and his friend Wobbler, born to be a hacker, supplies him with just about any illegally pirated game he could want. As earth's last remaining fighter, he has destroyed all but the last big alien ship in the game Only You Can Save Mankind when a message suddenly appears on the screen: We wish to talk. Thus begins a journey that takes him inside the game as the Chosen One, the human who will lead the alien ScreeWee race back to safety beyond The Boundary. The reptilian captain of the ScreeWee is tired of fighting; the human fighters appear out of nowhere, kill and destroy ships in her fleet, and keep coming back no matter how many times they are killed. She has seen what happened to the Space Invaders and would rather surrender than die fighting.
You don't have to remember playing Space Invaders to enjoy this book, but it does make the story a little more enjoyable. As always with Pratchett, the characters are well-developed and quite remarkable.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and different September 20, 2000
This is a terrific story, with many classic bits and a very realistic portrayal of kids in primary school. Johnny's best friends include Wobbler (a computer hacker), Yo-less (named because he never says Yo), and Bigmac (who lives in the rough part of town).
Johnny Maxwell, while his parents are going through "trying times" and the Gulf War is getting going on the tele, was playing a shoot-em-up computer game when he found that the Mighty ScreeWee(tm) Empire had no interest in fighting back, and wanted to surrender. This becomes quite complicated.
There are deeper meanings, etc, but don't let them frighten you off a book that is also very entertaining for adult Pratchett fans. :)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who else indeed? January 30, 2006
By Liz
That's really the question, isn't it? The old saw says that one person can make a difference, but no one ever thinks that it's them so no one does anything. And no difference is ever made. That's what the question on the cover of the book points out, if not you, then who else will?

In this case, Johnny is that one person, one out of thousands, but the only one who listens and takes on the responsibility of trying to do something. He has no power in the "real" world; his parents are on the verge of splitting up and he feels like he's just drifting through life. But now he has both power and responsibility, as little as he thinks he wants either.

It's always been just a game to him; kill the aliens and advance to the next level. But what happens when the aliens surrender? When they place their lives in his hands, ask for his protection? They just want to go home, to escape the strange humans who attack them without provocation. Johnny has the challenge of not just helping them, but learning to see them as people instead of just "things." Because it's all too easy to kill a thing. When you let that "thing" become a person to you, become real instead of an object, then it's not easy anymore.

And that's the lesson here, in a story where the first Gulf War is always on the TVs and being discussed in the background. It's all too easy to wage war when you see your opponents as less than human. When they're nothing more than a target on a screen. It's a lesson that Johnny initially fights against learning, but one that he comes to accept, just as he accepts that he's the only one both willing and able to help these aliens who are becoming people to him.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most thought-provoking books I've read July 15, 1999
By A Customer
Don't dismiss this as a simple Children's book, it's one of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read. It shows us how we portray warfare in the real world, particulary the Gulf War, and reduce it to a computer game on our television screens, a fun game where nobody really gets killed, excpet for "The Bad Guys".
Of course, after reading this book we understand that there really isn't any good or bad side in any war. I'd better stop now before I write a lenghty essay on this subject!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Mankind" never stumbles July 21, 2002
Best known for his "Discworld" series, Terry Pratchett actually penned several books prior to starting that. One of those is "Only You Can Save Mankind," the first book of a young adult trilogy, which shows some of his initial roughness but is still convincing and enjoyable.
Johnny Maxwell is an extremely smart but otherwise ordinary English boy, who enjoys hanging out with his friends Wobbler, Yo-less, and Bigmac (their respective nicknames are all explained in the book) and exchanging pirated video games. One of these, "Only You Can Save Mankind," focuses on defeating reptilian aliens called ScreeWees.
But suddenly the ScreeWees surrender. Johnny is, unsurprisingly, quite taken aback: video game enemies are supposed to continue fighting, not surrender and ask him to stop firing. Then the game shows nothing but empty space. Johnny assumes that there is something odd about it, but nothing can prepare him for what it turns out to be: The ScreeWees are real aliens, who are attacked when someone uses the video game.
Though very different from his Discworld series, "Only You Can Save Mankind" has the stamp of a Terry Pratchett book. From the quiet hero who sees it all, to supporting characters called "Wobbler," it's all Pratchett. The conversations are Pratchett's usual slightly rambling, nuggets-of-wisdom dialogue. The narrative style is much rougher and starker than in this later books, without the polish to be found in his later books. However, he also adds in some swsssh and fplatfplatfplat sound effects whenever the video game is dealt with.
The ScreeWees are interesting and original, although I hope Mr. Pratchett has since learned that amphibians do not have scales.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Gamer's World
"Only You Can Save Mankind" presents an interesting concept. A young misfit and video game expert finds that the enemy in his video game has taken a liking to him. Read more
Published 2 months ago by JMack
5.0 out of 5 stars Pratchett's early work is excellent
Another example of Pratchett's earliest work as scifi fiction writer. Geared for "tween" & "teen" readers. Still entertaining to an adult.
Published 3 months ago by Suzanne Fuselier
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like action AND comedy at the same time
this is THE book.
If you like action AND comedy at the same time, if you want to be intrigued AND laugh, if you want to forget about your surroundings for an hour and build a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rhiannon
5.0 out of 5 stars but liked
Different, but liked it
Published 4 months ago by Pat
5.0 out of 5 stars Down to earth fantasy for kids AND adults
Delightful. I had my grandchildren in mind but I enjoyed the book as well. Pratchett's books are never shallow even when they are funny. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Rosemary
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting hypothesis
Very good young adult story. Well written with believable characters and good development. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Published 7 months ago by frquent flier
5.0 out of 5 stars get this for your kids
This is the sort of book I would put into every grade-school library in the world, if I could. Harlan Ellison called Sir Terry the "smartest, kindest teacher you could ever... Read more
Published 9 months ago by persnickety
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Discworld but great anyway
Terry Pratchett is one of the best Authors I have come across. Whenever I feel a little down or depressed, I just pick up one of his books and immediately feel better. Read more
Published 10 months ago by David Sumsion
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very funny and good story about Johnny Maxwell
I love Terry Pratchett's Disc World books! While this is not one, his same whit is there and it is a very delightful (and very funny) story. I loved Johnny and his friends. Read more
Published 11 months ago by DLester
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming
Johnny Maxwell is an ordinary boy, living in the all-too ordinary town of Blackbury. However, when the space aliens in his computer game begin talking to him (for real), he begins... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kurt A. Johnson
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More About the Author

Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was fifteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe. Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, in 1983. In 1987 he turned to writing full time, and has not looked back since. To date there are a total of 36 books in the Discworld series, of which four (so far) are written for children. The first of these children's books, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal. A non-Discworld book, Good Omens, his 1990 collaboration with Neil Gaiman, has been a longtime bestseller, and was reissued in hardcover by William Morrow in early 2006 (it is also available as a mass market paperback (Harper Torch, 2006) and trade paperback (Harper Paperbacks, 2006). Terry's latest book, Nation, a non-Discworld standalone YA novel was published in October of 2008 and was an instant New York Times and London Times bestseller. Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett has won numerous literary awards, was named an Officer of the British Empire "for services to literature" in 1998, and has received four honorary doctorates from the Universities of Warwick, Portsmouth, Bath, and Bristol. His acclaimed novels have sold more than 55 million copies (give or take a few million) and have been translated into 36 languages. Terry Pratchett lives in England with his family, and spends too much time at his word processor.  Some of Terry's accolades include: The Carnegie Medal, Locus Awards, the Mythopoetic Award, ALA Notable Books for Children, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Book Sense 76 Pick, Prometheus Award and the British Fantasy Award.

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